Illumine Game Recap

# Clue 12 Solution: Greek Potatoes

How the Clue Works

Teams received three Russet potatoes and, once they found the shady potato dealer, a small red potato. All of the potatoes had symbols carved into them. These turned out to be upper-case Greek characters, cut in half either vertically or horizontally. The engravings were as follows:

Red Potato:

• 5 halves of Alpha (one top, one bottom, three left or right halves)

Small Brown Potato:

• 2 halves of Xi (two tops)
• 1 half of Tau (right half)

Large Brown Potato 1:

• 3 halves of Beta (two tops, one right half)
• 5 halves of Theta (two top or bottom halves, three left or right halves)
• 1 half of Kappa (bottom half)
• 3 halves of Omega (one bottom half, one left half, one right half)

Large Brown Potato 2:

• 3 halves of Epsilon (three top or bottom halves)
• 2 halves of Eta (one top or bottom half, one right half)
• 1 half of Omicron
• 1 half of Phi (top or bottom half)
• 2 halves of Psi (one top half, one right half)

Tallying up the number of each symbol and indexing into the name of the symbol, yields a bunch of letters. Although you could just anagram the letters, if instead you place the letters in order based of the alphabetical order of the Greek symbols from which they came (per potato) you get the correct words: "a", "it", "take", and "stops", in order above.

Placed in the proper order, the message was "It stops a take", which is a simple riddle whose answer is "cut". Cutting open the shady potato, which was not like the others (preferably with something smaller than a wood saw), a small message wrapped in aluminum foil could be found.

The Solution

The message inside the aluminum foil contained the answer, "Go to the Western Inn in Lakewood".

Design Notes

This puzzle started out as "something to do with potatoes". At some point I (Jamie) thought it would be really nifty to hide information inside the potatoes. A lot of the design work actually revolved around how to accomplish this without giving it away with obvious exterior evidence. Here are some ideas which were rejected:

• Idea - Use a syringe to inject dye into the potatoes. The very first iteration of this idea would be to inject the dye such that when the potato was cut open along a specific axis, Braille would appear on the inside. I gave up on this idea after it became apparent that a) the only syringes I could get were for insulin shots and had needles about 2 cm longs, and b) the insides of potatoes are two wet to contain dye in an orderly fashion. So then I thought about just having color on the insides of the potatoes. This still didn't work because when you removed the syringe from the potato most of the dye just squirted out the hole and stained this skin. Also, hiding this kind of information on the insides of the potatoes would make verification impossible, since you'd have to destroy the clue to verify that you constructed it correctly.
• Idea - Bury the potatoes in a bucket of dirt. Their relative depths would be a source of information. This idea just never went anywhere.
• Idea - Have a different kind of puzzle on each potato. So, one potato would have the Greek symbols we're familiar with. Another I was thinking about was a simple nonogram (paint by numbers), but possibly sort of spherical somehow to take advantage of the potato topography. I was having trouble coming up with more, so I decided to just stick with the Greek symbols.
• Idea - Put a piece of paper IN the potatoes. This idea I obviously ended up using. The problem was figuring out HOW to get the message inside the potato. My first choice for marking the potatoes was going to be just drawing on them with marker (which would have made construction a lot easier...) So the first thing I tried was cutting a potato in half, hollowing out a little room for the message, gluing the potato back together, then drawing over the cut with a Sharpie. Unfortunately, potatoes then to warp after they've been cut, so the cut was really obvious. Eventually I was able to rig up my straw-insertion technique which allowed me to insert a message into a slit in the potato, without have to completely bisect it. However, it was still possible to see the cut. So, the next logical step was to hide the cut in plain sight, and make ALL of the markings cuts. In the shape of half Greek letters. No problem.
• Idea - Stuff string into the cuts to a) keep them open and b) hide the message. Well, the string didn't really want to stay in there, and it was kind of a pain in the ass to get a length of string exactly the same length as the cut you'd just made. I had a bag of dirt from my earlier bucket idea, so I just decided to try stuffing dirt into the wounds. This turned out to work pretty well, since the potatoes' moisture kept the dirt attached.

So, time to playtest! I mark up a set of potatoes (time: 2 hours) and bring them in. The test squad looks at them, tries matching halves of Greek letters for a while, then someone says, "Hey, lets cut open the red potato!" -.- Needless to say, that was a pretty quick playtest which involved solving very little of the actual puzzle. We figured at least ONE team would try this in the actual Game. Also, in that version both upper and lower-case Greek letters were used. Yeah, so if you think the final version was hard...

Okay, playtest 2! I'm getting my technique down, so when I construct the next set (time: 1.5 hours) the symbols are a little easier to make out, plus they're all upper-case. The next test squad spends about an hour figuring out that the symbols are Greek letters, since of course most upper-case Greek letters look like our current alphabet. Clue bats were applied. Another hour goes by and they've solved the puzzle, this time not cutting open the red potato until they've actually solved the riddle. So that run-through only took a bit longer that it took for me to actually create the potatoes. We'll put this in the 'long puzzles' category...

Now all we need to do is make 14 sets of these, but we actually want extras so more like 18. And the potatoes are only good for so long, so we need to do them all in about the last week-and-a-half before the Game. I estimate that this will take 18 man-hours... I set up a time for a bunch of people to get together to carve potatoes, and about five people show up. We start with the easiest potato, "IT", which has only 3 symbols. It turns I'm an above average potato carver. We eventually get most of the "IT" potatoes carved, but with something like a 50% rejection rate. We'll never finish at this rate.

Fortunately, at this point someone, Scott or Erik, has the bright idea to make some sort of stencil to ease the pain of carving. The two of them head off to Home Depot before they close to look for ideas. They come back with a crappy wooden plank, a roll of metal duct strapping, and a tube of epoxy. We cut the strapping down the middle, bend it into the shape of half-Greek letters, and epoxy them to the board. After ten minutes the epoxy has mostly hardened and our patent-pending Half-Greek Symbol Potato Jig (TM) goes to work! Simply slam the potato down on your symbol of choice and, voila!, a consistently carved potato.

If the damn pieces hadn't been so prone to breaking off the board and sticking in the potatoes it would have been a cakewalk.

GC Notes

Charles, Paul, and I (Jamie) arrived at the market around 1:30 AM, if I recall correctly. Hoop was already there, and was just settling down for a nap in his car when we arrived and woke him up. We walked around for a while and looked at the tower (which I had never seen before), then headed to the market to figure out where we would set up. Charles, Paul, and I sort of ended up in a line of stalls not quite facing Hoop's hiding spot.

I made a bit of a spur of the moment decision regarding how exactly we would interact with the teams. I told the other two non-shady dealers to really over-emphasize "No half-formed symbols" and to pretend we really couldn't see them. We also of course needed to indicate the presence of the shady dealer, which we did by warning teams about a shady dealer about whom they should avoid.

We had just finished unpacking the potatoes when we noticed a large-ish racoon sniffing around. In the stall right next to me was a plastic bag full of trash. Naturally, the racoon finds the bag and starts rummaging through it, about 10 feet away from me. Now, I'm not really too concerned about being attacked by the racoon or anything like that, but I am afraid that I'm going to turn my back and find a potato missing. And, well, I wasn't so unconcerned about being attacked that I was about to press the issue. Fortunately, at this point the first teams started arriving, and the racoon was scared off.

In general, a team or group of teams would arrive, and we'd start hawking our wares. They would run up, gather in a bunch in front of one of the stalls, and attempt to inspect the potatoes. I would not let them touch more than one at a time, mostly because I didn't want them running off with two. One challenge many teams seemed to have a problem with was "taking a potato". Often times we practically had to shove the potatoes in their hands. One or two teams even put their's back... It was already a bit hard to keep track of which teams had taken a potato already, but having them come back was a real pain in the arse.

Teams would often come back to us and attempt to get information from us. We had some nice conversations regarding Orbital Mind-Control Lasers and whether we had seen any UFO's around.

The teams tended to arrive in waves. Between waves our main task was staying awake. Hoop would venture out of his shadows and come talk to us. During one particularly long lull in the action Hoop laid down on a stall right next to ours and fell asleep. At this point team (I believe) Orange comes up to us (finally) looking for the shady dealer. So Paul starts nudging Hoop and says to the team, "Sometimes shady dealers get tired and they need to take a nap." We also discovered that potato jokes are very funny at 4 a.m.

The night drags on...

The sky starts to brighten...

At 6:30 a truck pulls up to the market and starts unloading produce. Two teams still haven't arrived. We move our operation to just outside the front door of the market. There are two white plastic picnic tables on either side of the door. Charles, Paul, and I stand behind the one on the right, Hoop stands behind the one on the left. The second-to-last team arrives, we do our speil about half-formed symbols and beware of the shady dealer, give them our three brown potatoes, and Hoop (who is 10 feet away), has to run up to the van to give them a potato before they drive away.

The last team arrives and gets all four potatoes. I notice that the trashcan right behind us has a large number of potato halves. We leave at about 7 a.m.

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